No place to Park City
February 12, 2016
There have been a couple of stories in the paper recently about truly shocking crime: People have been idling their cars. Even with gas prices down where they are, I’m too cheap to consider idling the car while running into the post office or some other errand. Besides, I’d lock the keys inside. Among all the other ills afflicting our society, idling is not in my top ten for action.
In Park City, however, idling ranks just below plastic grocery bags on the list of unpardonable actions. Alert the SWAT team. A 10,000 square foot house with a half-acre of heated driveway, well, that’s perfectly all right as long as it’s tastefully designed. Decorative natural gas fires all over town? No problem. But idling the car — there is a special place in hell for those people. There was an extreme case during Sundance where a woman left her car running while she watched a two-hour movie. The story didn’t say which movie. The report said the car was a BMW. You knew that already, didn’t you?
It’s strange that the City gets all worked up about a couple of cars idling in a parking lot, but seems completely oblivious to 1,000 cars idling in the morning traffic jam on 248.
In their search for idling cars, officials have discovered there is a parking shortage at the ski areas. I’m not sure why this discovery was so long in coming, but it has now achieved official notice. They will surely consider forming a committee. Last week, the combination of the competitions at both Deer Valley and Park City, great ski conditions on the mountain, and the smog in Salt Lake all contributed to a mess. The lots at Park City were full by about 9 a.m. When I left on Friday, the competition was on, and the parking lot was gridlocked. I was blocked in so tightly that I thought it would take a crane to get my car out. I got lucky, and the truck parked on the other side of the row from me backed out. I was able to leave through his space before the fistfight broke out between people competing for it.
Our resorts are kind of an anomaly in the industry. There aren’t many destination ski areas where you can park with your bumper touching the snow. Sun Valley has about 4 parking spaces. Vail was built on the premise that you would stay in a hotel and walk to the lifts. Only as things have grown, that isn’t the case, so now people park on the shoulder of the freeway. Beaver Creek has a gate and unless you are in a hotel on the slope, you park down the canyon and take the bus. The expectation that we can park at the bottom of the lift is unique to our resorts.
I’m part of the problem. I ski with groups of friends who come from all directions; Heber, Kamas, Snyderville, Silver Creek, and in town. There isn’t a reasonable car pool arrangement that doesn’t involve lots of extra miles driven, time spent gathering up, and parking on neighborhood streets. So we each arrive in our own car, and take up 8 or 10 parking spaces. That is the American Way. It’s completely unreasonable to assume that the resort can provide enough parking for 10,000 skiers if we all arrive in our own cars. But it’s also unreasonable for the resort to assume that 500,000 Epic Pass holders will fit in a Subaru.
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So what’s the solution? Charging for parking may force some car-pooling. But a place to park the car is part of the deal in this country. Charging for parking is like a restaurant charging extra for silverware. "Here is your soup. Oh, you want a spoon? That’s $25."
The bus system works reasonably well, if you happen to live close and on a bus route. If you are arriving to ski from the rest of the world, it doesn’t work at all. Coming from Salt Lake, Heber, Kamas or anywhere else, there is no bus. There isn’t a way to park your car and transfer to a bus, even if you wanted to. Most of us don’t want to. The shuttle from the High School parking lot sort of works on weekends, but parking is also a problem mid-week when that lot isn’t available. The 750-car parking lot on the tailings pond remains shrouded in mystery.
City and County officials believe they can convert us all from free-range Westerners to urban bus riders. That is nothing short of a cultural revolution. They might as well be asking us to leash our dogs, speak Esperanto, and adopt the metric system. I’m not saying that’s bad; it’s just not going to happen.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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